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Upcoming Launches: Japan’s H3 Maiden Flight; Empty Soyuz, New Crew and Supply Ship Heading to Space Station

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
February 6, 2023
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H3 rocket configurations (Credit: JAXA)
H3 launch vehicle configurations (Credit: JAXA)

Japan is set to launch its H3 rocket for the first time and a trio of spacecraft are headed to the International Space Station (ISS) in the weeks ahead. India is also hoping the second launch of its Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) will succeed where the first failed.

Japan’s H3 rocket is scheduled for liftoff on Feb. 13 from the Tanegashima Space Center. It will carry the ALOS-3 Earth observation satellite for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

H3 is designed to replace the H-IIA and already retired H-IIB boosters. The launch vehicle has a capacity of placing 4,000 kg (8,818 lb) into sun synchronous orbit (SSO) or 4,000–7,900 kg (8,818–17,417 lb) into geostationary transfer orbit.

Upcoming Orbital Launches

DateLauncher – OrganizationPayload – OrganizationPurposeLaunch Site
Feb. 6Falcon 9 – SpaceXAmazonas Nexus – HispasatGEO comsatCape Canaveral
Feb. 9Soyuz-2.1a – RoscosmosProgress-83P – RoscosmosISS resupplyBaikonur
Feb. 10SSLV – ISROEOS-7, ISRO; Janus-01, Antaris; AzaadiSAT-2, Space Kidz IndiaEarth observation, Tech demo, educationSatish Dhawan
Feb. 11Falcon 9 – SpaceXStarlink – SpaceXCommunicationsCape Canaveral
Feb. 15H3 – JAXAALOS-3 – JAXAEarth observationTanegashima
Feb. 18Falcon 9 – SpaceXInmarsat-6 F2 – InmarsatGEO comsatFlorida
Feb. 20Soyuz-2.1 – RoscosmosSoyuz MS-23 – RoscosmosUncrewed ISSBaikonur
Feb. 26Falcon 9 – SpaceXCrew Dragon – SpaceXCrew 6Kennedy
*Mitsubishi Heavy Industries

On Feb. 20, Russia will launch the Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft without anyone aboard to replace the damaged Soyuz MS-22 vehicle currently docked at the space station. Soyuz-22 suffered a leak in its coolant system after being struck by an external object.

Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin and American astronaut Frank Rubio will use Soyuz MS-23 to return to Earth in September after a one-year mission. They were originally set to return in March aboard Soyuz MS-22 after 188 days in space.

Russia will also launch the Progress-83P resupply ship to ISS from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Feb. 9.

SpaceX will launch the Crew-6 mission on Feb. 26. The crew is composed of NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Warren Hoburg, United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi and Russian cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev. The six-month mission will be the first long-term stay in space by an UAE astronaut.

SpaceX has at least three other launches scheduled for the rest of February. The missions include orbiting geosynchronous communications satellites for Hispasat and Intelsat and a batch of Starlink satellites.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will conduct the second launch of its SSLV rocket on Feb 10. The booster will carry the EOS-07 Earth observation satellite and two small secondary payloads.

ISRO said the first SSLV launch last August failed when the rocket experienced higher than expected vibrations during the separation of the second and third stages. The vibrations saturated six accelerometers used to control the rocket. The guidance system concluded the accelerometers had failed, even though they continued to function normally, ISRO said.

A salvage system was triggered using data from the accelerometers. The salvage mode bypassed ignition of the fourth stage Velocity Trimming Module (VTM) “since it could be a deterrent to the success of salvage option in some cases.”

Due to the resulting performance shortfall, the EOS-02 Earth observation and Azaadisat student satellites were injected into an unstable orbit of 360.56 x 75.66 km (224 x 47 miles). The satellites’ orbits decayed and they reentered immediately, ISRO said.

SSLV is capable of placing 300 kg (661 lb) into a 500 km (311 mile) high SSO or 500 kg (1,102 lb) into a 500 km (311 mile) high low Earth orbit.

Launches Last Week

SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets launched twice last week with 102 Starlink satellites and D-Orbit’s ION SCV009 space tug aboard. The tug had a satellite simulator aboard to test the Ensign-Bickford Aerospace & Defense Company’s 8 inch payload release ring.

Orbital Launches
Week of Jan. 29

DateLauncher – OrganizationPayload – OrganizationPurposeLaunch Site
Jan. 30Falcon 9 – SpaceX49 Starlink, SpaceX; ION SCV009, dummy satellite – D-OrbitCommunications – Space tugVandenberg
Feb. 2Falcon 9 – SpaceX53 Starlink – SpaceXCommunicationsKennedy
Feb. 5Proton-M – RoscosmosElekto-L – RoscosmosMeteorologyBaikonur
*Mitsubishi Heavy Industries

Four Falcon 9 boosters have launched 209 Starlink satellites this year. SpaceX has launched 3,875 Starlink satellites since February 2018.

Russia launched for the first time this year when a Proton-M rocket launched the Elekto-L meteorology satellite from Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Orbital Launches to Date

The United States is ahead in launch attempts (11), successes (9) and failures (2). China is in second place with five successful launches, followed by Japan and Russia with one launch apiece. Europe, India, Iran and South Korea, which all conducted launches last year, are not yet on the board.

Orbital Launches by Nation
Through Feb. 5

NationSuccessesFailuresPartial FailuresTotal
United States92011

SpaceX is at the top of the table with eight launches, followed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation with four.

Launches by Company
Through Feb. 5

Galactic EnergyChina101
Rocket LabUSA100
Mitsubishi Heavy IndustriesJapan100
ABL Space SystemsUSA011
Virgin OrbitUSA011
* China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation

Galactic Energy, Rocket Lab, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Roscosmos have conducted one launch each. ABL Space Systems and Virgin Orbit suffered failures.

Launches by Spaceport
Through Feb. 5

Cape CanaveralUSA404
Mid-Atlantic Regional SpaceportUSA101
Pacific Spaceport Complex – AlaskaUSA011

Florida remains the world’s busiest launch location with six launches through the first five weeks of the year. Other U.S. spaceports that have hosted launches include Vandenberg Space Force Base, Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia, and the Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska.

China’s five launches have been spread among the nation’s four spaceports. Three spaceports in Japan, Russia and the United Kingdom hosted one launch each.